The much anticipated Amazon Echo, rumored to have been in development for over 5 years, was finally released earlier this year to much fanfare. Currently, Amazon Echo is the #1 Best Seller in Home Audio Speakers on Amazon.com where it received a rating of 4.3 out 5 stars. The Echo is a portable speaker that can play music from Prime Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and others using hands free voice control. Using 360 degree Omni directional audio, the Amazon Echo fills rooms with immersive directional audio.
The speakers that power the immersive sound experience are dual downward facing speakers that produce crisp vocals, fine-tuned to capture the nuances of spoken audio, as well as dynamic bass response for the rich enjoyment of music in a crowded atmosphere.
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Amazon Echo Features
One of the unique features of the Amazon Echo is its ability to hear you even from across the room even while music is playing using its patented far-field voice recognition software. The Amazon Echo is also capable of answering general questions, reading audio books aloud, dictating the daily news, informing you of local traffic reports, local businesses, sports scores, and schedules, all via the cloud based voice service software built into the Amazon Echo known as “Alexa”.
The voice command module, Alexa ,is a self-learning program that gets smarter each time anyone in the world uses the Amazon Echo. Feedback from each communication is integrated into the cloud, processed, stored, and eventually remembered. These increases in intelligence are directly transmitted to your device after each update. As more and more people begin utilizing this software, it will get progressively better at understanding your questions, processing them, and providing adequate results.
The Amazon Echo is capable of accepting far reaching voice commands due to the 7 audio sensors located beneath the light ring, these sensors utilize beam forming technology, an adaptation to Wi-Fi that allows signals to travel directly from the router to your device, rather than the router emitting the signals in all directions. Beam forming technology improves a wireless networks range as well as its bandwith utilization. For your Amazon echo beam forming technology means crisp audio, limited interruptions, and smooth streaming of data.
The software which allows your voice to be discerned from all the other audio in your environment is just as impressive as the hardware, the Echo utilizes patented noise cancellation algorithms to discern your specific voice pattern from the sounds of your environment as well as the sounds emitted from the device itself.
Turn your home into a smart home by connecting the Amazon Echo to WeMo, Phillips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, and other connected devices to enable light control and switch control features. This means you can turn on the lights in your room simply by ordering Echo to do so even though you may be on the other side of the room.
Amazon is constantly updating and adding new features to the Amazon Echo. Since its launch they’ve already added nearly 100 new features. By connecting your echo to your mobile device via the free companion app for iOS, Android, Fire OS, and desktop browsers, you can manage your Echo remotely as well as program it to your desired specifications.
Design & Build
Amazon opted for a minimalist design approach to allow the echo to blend seamlessly into the background. The Amazon Echo is a cylindrical tube shape that is meant to be placed in the upright positon to make full use of the downward facing speakers. It is 9.25 inches in height and has a 3.27in diameter. The top of the Amazon Echo is a black cap with two buttons, one is the action button the other disables the microphone. The Echo comes in just the one color,black.
Around the top perimeter there’s a light ring and within that ring there are perforations that feed audio to the microphones. The light ring turns blue when it’s receptive to commands and it turns red when muted, otherwise it’s off. The body of the Amazon Echo is black and sleek metal; perforations line the bottom half of the cylinder for the speakers. Other than a small semi-faded logo on the bottom of the Amazon Echo there are no other brands or logos visible.
Unfortunately, the Amazon Echo is not portable in the sense that it must be plugged into the wall at all times, the Echo comes equipped with a 6ft A/C adapter. Physically it’s quite small for a speaker, so much so that it could easily be mistaken for a wireless speaker, which is probably what Amazon wants you to believe since none of their advertisements even hint at a cord. The Echo also comes with a remote control with a built in microphone so you can communicate with your device so long as you’re within a reasonable range.
Amazon Echo Review 2016
So is the Amazon Echo a glorified virtual personal assistant, a Frankenstein like amalgamation of consumer technology, or a Jekyll and Hyde device that’s good at one thing and bad at the other, or a jack of all trades -master of none? I’d argue the latter, the Echo doesn’t excel at any one field but that’s precisely whats made it so successful in the mass market.
At the hefty price tag of $180 you could buy much better speakers that deliver clearer audio, deeper bass, and much louder audio. The Echo has the look and feel of a wireless Bluetooth speaker except it isn’t wireless, but it does have better sound quality than most Bluetooth speakers whose high price is usually due to the fact that it’s a Bluetooth speaker.
So why the premium price tag? Largely because of the voice control and smart home features, however many of these can be done just as easily via any smartphone. Also the voice control features aren’t that great, Echo’s voice command module Alexa is still in its infant stages, meaning it still has a lot to learn before it can compete with more established models. Just think of the difference between Siri on the iPhone 4s as opposed to how good it has gotten today, or the difference between Bing and Google.
Although Siri was capable of basic tasks like setting your alarm clock and telling you the time on your 4s, today it has a host of other features due to the simple reason that people are constantly using it and it gets smarter with each iPhone iteration. Expect the same thing with Alexa, she’s capable of some fairly impressive tasks now but she won’t reach full potential until more and more people begin using that feature.
Amazon is essentially creating a brand new niche market with the Amazon Echo. They’ve noticed that consumers are moving towards small, sleek, portable speakers more so than the larger speakers better suited for audiophiles. Consumers want something that can be easily moved to meet their various needs, but they also want something that can produce a hefty sound in social environments. Also, they’ve noticed the positive reactions to virtual personal assistant programs like Siri.
To capitalize on this, they wanted to build a device that was still relatively portable compared to a home entertainment system, while also producing decent sound and with voice command software. Whether or not this means as a society we are moving towards mediocrity, or that we are expecting more and more from our devices, is a question best left to philosophers ultimately it’s the market that matters and the market has spoken: consumers love the Amazon Echo.
Because it can do so many things, it’s a versatile speaker that meets many of the day to day uses of the average consumer, be it a quiet evening of Adele and wine by the fireplace in your jam jams, or blasting a Chief Keef banger while slamming shots with your frat brothers, the Echo is capable of many things and that’s where it stands out from the competition.
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Size : 9.25″ x 3.27″ x 3.27″ (235 mm x 83.5 mm x 83.5 mm)
Weight:26.9 oz. (1045 grams)
Connectivity: Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO) . Supports 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi networks. Does not support connecting to ad-hoc (or peer-to-peer) Wi-Fi networks.
Bluetooth Connectivity Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) support for audio streaming from your mobile device to Amazon Echo and Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP) for voice control of connected mobile devices. Hands-free voice control is not supported for Mac OS X devices.
Audio: 2.5 inch woofer and 2.0 inch tweeter
System Requirements: Amazon Echo comes ready to connect to your home Wi-Fi. The Alexa App is compatible with Fire OS, Android, and iOS devices and also accessible via your web browser.
Warranty and Service: 1-year limited warranty and service included. Optional 1-year, 2-year, and 3-year extended warranty available for U.S. customers sold separately. Use of Amazon Echo is subject to the terms.
Included in the Box: Amazon Echo, power adapter/cable (6 ft.), and quick start guide